MORGANTOWN, W.Va. —
The offer came in May 8, and Morgantown High’s highly-touted punter John McConnell didn’t waste must time making his college decision, staying in state.
Just two weeks after Marshall extended a full-ride scholarship offer to McConnell, he made the decision to head south along the Ohio River and join the Thundering Herd.
“I chose Marshall because all the coaches had full trust in me, and I love the overall team atmosphere and community around the football team,” McConnell said. “After talking with a lot of the coaches, I knew it was the right spot for me.”
McConnell attended camps at Power 5 schools across the East Coast and Southeast, including WVU, Pitt, Penn State, Georgia Tech and Auburn, but Marshall was the first Division I program to actually make an offer. Other schools that had interest in McConnell included Alabama, North Carolina and N.C. State.
It’s difficult for specialists to earn scholarships out of high school — many walk on, either preferred or not, and earn scholarships as they begin to contribute for the team. McConnell was ranked the fifth-best punting prospect nationally by Chris Sailer Kicking, a website dedicated to punters and place kickers, similar to Rivals.com and 247 Sports for position players.
“It was amazing (to be offered) because most punters don’t get scholarships out of high school, they have to earn them in college after a few years,” McConnell said.
McConnell, a rising senior for the Mohigans and a part of the 2021 recruiting cycle, had 22 punts during the 2019 season, averaging 36.4 yards with a long of 51 yards. Four punts were downed inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. On kickoffs, McConnell had 16 touchbacks (high school kickoffs are from own 40-yard line while college is from the 35), and as a placekicker, he made 4 of 6 field goals and made all 31 extra point attempts.
McConnell’s career-long field goal was 41 yards as a sophomore in 2018.
Marshall punter Robert LeFevre will be a senior this season, so the starting punter in could be wide open in 2021. Marshall coach Kyle Segler has worked with former Thundering Herd specialists Kaare Vedvik and Justin Rohrwasser, who are both currently on NFL rosters.
“Coach Segler has been telling me I’ll have a great opportunity to hopefully start immediately and play all four years,” McConnell said. “He has also talked about me possibly graduating early and joining the team in January, if that’ll still be a possibility.”
McConnell will be the second Morgantown native in Marshall’s roster in 2021. University 2019 graduate Amir Richardson signed with the Herd as a wide receiver and redshirted in 2019.
As for McConnell and WVU, the need for a punter wasn’t as critical as Marshall for the 2021 recruiting class.
“I actually had a really great relationship with all the coaches at WVU,” McConnell said. “For them, there wasn’t as much of a need for a punter in my class, so there wasn’t really a scholarship for them to offer a punter. They did offer me an opportunity as a walk-on, but I felt the opportunity at Marshall was a better fit for me.”